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Byrd's father, prompted by a letter from his wealthy uncle, Thomas Stegge, had emigrated from London at the age of eighteen, becoming heir to his uncle's Virginia plantation. After completing a classical education, his father wanted him to study business and trade under merchants in Rotterdam, Holland.

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But following a brief, unhappy stay there in , Byrd persuaded his father to apprentice him to a London mercantile firm before entering London's Middle Temple in There he studied law and formed several important alliances with men such as Sir Robert Southwell, president of the Royal Society, and Charles Boyle, an English nobleman. Thanks to Southwell's influence, Byrd was elected a Royal Society fellow in April , and the following year he was chosen to its council.

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Backed by the power, wealth, and prestige of his inherited positions he was a British aristocrat and a Virginia gentleman , William Byrd enjoyed a good deal of social and political influence in Britain and the Colonies. Having become a licensed attorney in April , Byrd returned to Virginia the following year and was promptly elected to the House of Burgesses.

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Somewhat less successful in his romantic pursuits, perhaps due to his many debaucheries, Byrd eventually married Lucy Parke, daughter of Leeward Islands governor Colonel Daniel Parke, in After his father-in-law's murder in , Byrd, who had already inherited his father's plantation in , agreed to assume the Parke family debts in exchange for acquiring the family's extensive Virginia land holdings.

However, the amount due was much larger than Byrd anticipated, and the debts plagued him the remainder of his life. Over the course of his lifetime, Byrd resided in England on five separate occasions, spending at least thirty years there. In he returned to London, where his first wife succumbed to smallpox the next year.


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To avoid dismissal as a councilman, Byrd returned briefly to Virginia, reconciling with the governor at the Board of Trade's behest. Traveling back to England in fall , Byrd began the protracted process of finding a new wife. Following his unsuccessful attempts to court at least three wealthy British heiresses, he finally married Maria Taylor in Two years later, he moved permanently to Virginia, where he experimented with growing different tobacco strains and resumed his seat in the council.

The History of the Dividing Line - North Carolina History Project

Though he failed in his bid for governor, Byrd did become a member of the joint commission to survey the Virginia-North Carolina boundary line in Upon his August 26, , death at his Westover estate, William Byrd—amateur physician, self-trained naturalist, and colorful statesman—left behind a considerable legacy: one of the finest private libraries, with over 3, volumes; extensive landholdings totaling , acres; and a literary corpus detailing plantation life in colonial Virginia.

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William Byrd's Histories of the Dividing Line Betwixt Virginia: and North Carolina

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